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Cameron “would prefer a minority Government to another coalition”

telegraphelection“David Cameron is preparing to fight the next general election on a clear promise to the British people not to form a second coalition government even if he falls short of a Commons majority, The Telegraph has learnt. The Prime Minister wants to make a commitment in the Conservative Party election manifesto not to sign a second power-sharing deal with a smaller party in the event of a hung parliament next May, it is understood. Instead, a Conservative party that won the most seats but lacked a Commons majority would attempt to rule as a minority government, a course that would almost certainly lead to its early collapse and a quick second election.” – Daily Telegraph

Scrapping Stamp Duty “would be real help to buy”

“Tens of thousands of homebuyers face paying three times as much in the stamp duty ‘stealth tax’ because soaring property prices have tipped their home into a higher rate band – leading to property experts and MPs calling for an urgent review. Official figures published last week showed that the average UK house price reached £250,000 in December. Anyone buying at that price is forced to pay three times as much stamp duty than if they got a cheaper home – 3 per cent rather than 1 per cent.” – The Independent

Sir John Major champion working class Toryism as he opens new Party HQ…

brixtonposter“Sir John Major will today declare the Tories the only true party for working class Brits as he launches a fresh drive to dump its toff image. Brixton boy Sir John has been picked as the front man for a new Conservative drive to win over ordinary people after years of class attacks on old Etonian leader David Cameron. And despite some Cabinet ministers’ privileged backgrounds, unlike his own modest one, the 1990s leader will insist only Tories really understand Brits’ drive to get on in life. In a speech at the party’s new central London HQ, the ex-Premier will hail the “millions of people today up and down the UK who have similar hopes and aspirations as I did back then”.” – The Sun(£)

  • “Neither Mrs Thatcher nor John Major had posh upbringings. They ran Tory governments for working-class people. That very concept seems alien after nine years of a Cameron Tory party. There is something desperate now about him calling in Mr Major to try to turn it around. It is extraordinary it’s taken the PM this long to realise how great a problem it is.” – The Sun Says(£)

…amidst claims “Eton cabal” are writing manifesto

“Five Old Etonians have key roles in producing the party’s 2015 manifesto: Jo Johnson, the brother of the Mayor of London, who is heading the Downing Street policy board; Ed Llewellyn, Mr Cameron’s chief-of-staff; the Cabinet Office minister Oliver Letwin; Rupert Harrison, the Chancellor’s right-hand man; and the Prime Minister himself. George Osborne, who also has a central role, went to St Paul’s, the academic London day school for boys. Downing Street claimed that it was wholly untrue that an “inner cabal” was producing the manifesto, pointing to the fact that Mr Cameron set up five policy commissions responsible for coming up with policy ideas. Three of them are headed by Cabinet ministers who attended state schools, including the Home Secretary, Theresa May, and the Foreign Secretary, William Hague.” – The Times(£)

>Yesterday: MPsETC: Too many Etonians? Send for Halfon

Leadsom attacks Bercow’s “hurtful” insults

LEADSOM Andrea blue“Speaker John Bercow’s attempts to prevent rowdiness in the Commons can be “downright quite hurtful”, Conservative MP Andrea Leadsom has said. In a discussion on the BBC’s Daily Politics programme, the MP for South Northamptonshire praised Mr Bercow’s efforts to champion the rights of backbench MPs.” – BBC

Most of the Regional Growth Fund left unspent

“More than three quarters of a government fund set up to boost regional economies remains unspent, according to a new report. The National Audit Office (NAO) also says the cost of creating new jobs via the fund has increased. Its progress report says that of the £2.6bn allocated via the Regional Growth Fund (RGF), only £492m has so far actually reached projects. However, it does say cash is starting to get to businesses more quickly.” – BBC

Harman refuses to apologise for link to paedophile group

mailharman“Labour’s deputy leader Harriet Harman finally broke her silence yesterday over her links with a paedophile group. Miss Harman, her MP husband Jack Dromey, and former Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt have been under mounting pressure to explain the connections to the Paedophile Information Exchange while holding key roles in the National Council for Civil Liberties. The pressure group granted ‘affiliate’ status to PIE, a notorious group of predatory paedophiles. Last night Miss Harman dismissed the revelations as a ‘politically-motivated smear campaign’ and offered no apology over the NCCL’s extraordinary relationship with the PIE.” – Daily Mail

  • “Although the body granted “affiliate” status to the Paedophile Information Exchange (PIE) prior to her appointment, Ms Harman said the NCCL was “an organisation which anyone could apply to join and indeed any organisation could apply to be ‘an affiliate’ on payment of a fee”. There is no evidence to suggest that Ms Harman, Mr Dromey or Ms Hewitt personally supported the views of PIE. Ms Harman told BBC Two’s Newsnight. “It is not the case that my work, when I was at NCCL, was influenced by PIE, was apologising for paedophilia or colluding with paedophilia. That is an unfair inference and a smear.” – BBC
  • Harman and Dromey’s statements and the Mail’s replies – Daily Mail

National Insurance will be renamed “Earnings Tax”

“It will be proposed by Tory backbench MP Ben Gummer in a Commons Bill and a source said Chancellor George Osborne was “attracted to the idea”. Mr Gummer said: “I am very pleased the Government is interested in the idea. They have been very receptive to trying to make the tax system more transparent. “This would be a really good step forward in making what the Government takes from taxpayers clearer and simpler.” – Daily Express

  • National Insurance reform could still cost us dear – Philip Johnston Daily Telegraph

>Yesterday:MPsETC: Ben Gummer makes another push for tax transparency

Gove says parents should lobby for schools to change holiday dates

GOVE, Michael blue sky“Micheal Gove said yesterday parents should lobby their child’s school to change its term dates to avoid paying inflated prices for a family holiday. The Education Secretary attacked the travel industry for raising prices at peak times, but argued that many schools have the power to set their own dates. Around 70 per cent of secondary schools and 30 per cent of primaries can do so, but not those run by councils. However, the Coalition has drawn up laws to extend the power to all schools by September next year.” – Daily Mail

  • “Supply and demand. Remember them?” – Allister Heath City AM

Wealthy foreigners “should get visas for university endowments”

“Foreign millionaires will be offered visas in exchange for donations to hospitals and endowments to universities, under proposals by the government’s official migration advisers. The Migration Advisory Committee is expected to recommend on Tuesday that wealthy foreigners and their families should be allowed to live in Britain indefinitely in exchange for endowments to good causes.” – Daily Telegraph

Bone under investigation over benefit fraud

timesbone“A Conservative MP who demands a “zero-tolerance” approach to criminals is under police investigation over an alleged £100,000 benefits fraud linked to his mother-in-law’s finances. Peter Bone, the Eurosceptic MP for Wellingborough, has been questioned under caution by detectives as part of a year-long inquiry into whether the elderly woman’s assets were deliberately concealed during her time in a care home, The Times can reveal. Documents were seized when the MP’s constituency home was raided by police last year.” – The Times(£

  • “Mr Bone tweeted: “The Times allegation: We have done nothing wrong. The claims made are without foundation.” He added that a full statement would be issued “in due course”.” – BBC

PM’s “cry of joy” for Bowie

“David Cameron yesterday thanked David Bowie for backing the Union  as Scottish Nationalist leader Alex Salmond branded Westminster politicians ‘thieves’. The Prime Minister revealed that he ‘let out a cry of joy’ when the music legend used his acceptance speech at the Brit Awards last week to urge: ‘Scotland, stay with us.’ Mr Cameron spoke out as both he and Mr Salmond, Scotland’s First Minister, stepped up hostilities over independence – both taking their cabinets to Aberdeenshire to fight over the future of the oil industry.” – Daily Mail

  • “Alex Salmond has upped the referendum rhetoric by branding Westminster politicians “thieves” for allegedly squandering the nation’s oil and gas reserves over many years as the North Sea became the latest independence battleground between London and Edinburgh. The First Minister’s outburst earned him a stern rebuke from Baroness Goldie, the former Scottish Conservative leader, who said such language “ill becomes a first minister” and insisted “playground yah-boo politics have no role to play” in the debate.” – The Herald
  • “Mr Cameron told the BBC: “What we see with the North Sea is a great success story for the United Kingdom – and now the oil and gas is getting harder to recover it is more important than ever that the North Sea oil and gas industry has the backing of the whole of the United Kingdom. “I think this family of nations is better off together. We want you to stay. My argument is one that is unremittingly positive about the success of this family of nations. It is worth listening to people like Bob Dudley from BP who talk positively about the strengths the UK brings to the North Sea oil industry.” – BBC

Hague urges reconciliation for Ukraine

HAGUE William looking right“Political stability and a “spirit of reconciliation” are vital for Ukraine after the recent bloodshed, UK Foreign Secretary William Hague has said. He said ex-president Viktor Yanukovych, ousted by Ukraine’s Parliament on Saturday, no longer had authority after clashes which left 80 people dead. Ukraine “did not face a choice between Russia and the EU”, he told MPs.” – BBC

Labour propose police forces merger

“Labour is considering whether to merge police forces and axe elected crime commissioners as part of a process of “decluttering” public services. Forces could be merged where there was local agreement, while officials not providing value to the taxpayer may be scrapped, a shadow minister will say.” – BBC

  • “The way Parliament scrutinises legislation must be revamped, Labour has said, with the public given a “real voice” in the law-making process. Shadow Commons leader Angela Eagle said too many proposed laws were “ill-thought through” and “unworkable”. She is proposing a new stage in a bill’s passage in which ministers would answer questions about its content.” – BBC

CPS “fails to protect witnesses”

independentcps“The Crown Prosecution Service has cut the number of staff it employs to look after witnesses – some of whom are victims of crime – by more than half in just three years, an investigation has revealed. Research by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism for The Independent has found that since 2010, the number of Witness Care staff has fallen by 57 per cent across England and Wales.” – The Independent

Carey: It’s simplistic to oppose welfare cuts

“It is much too simplistic to blame these problems on cutbacks to welfare and “failures in the benefit system, whether it be payment delays or punitive sanctions”. The problems relate to a great variety of factors, including the loss of essential family networks in which basic skills such as cooking, household management and budgeting are no longer passed down the generations. The welfare system is being asked to replace kinship and neighbourliness and, in contrast to these, it is never going to pass muster as the ideal vehicle to deliver aid to those in greatest need when they most need it…. the churches should beware of the dangers of blithely defending a gargantuan welfare budget that every serious politician would cut as a matter of economic common sense.” – George Carey The Times(£)

  • “It is a strange reduction of a complex problem to say that the Government is to blame and that a few extra pounds in welfare entitlements will make a bad situation better. This is an unsophisticated foray into politics which does not reflect well on the Church. Nor does it recognise that the leading champions of welfare reform in both main parties have a moral as well as a practical case. Their goal is to help the disadvantaged help themselves.” – Leader The Times(£)

Goodman: Let AfD link up with the Conservatives

goodman“The longer-term logic for Cameron is very clear. If Conservative MEPs are to be a growing force in the European parliament, he must carry on the policy he began right back at the time of that Conservative leadership election. That means allowing his MEPs to travel in a more Eurosceptic direction – even at the risk of temporarily riling Merkel. And that, in turn, means him smiling on them joining up with any AfD candidates who win seats in May.” – Paul Goodman The Guardian

  • Mrs Merkel can’t give Cameron what he needs – Rachel Sylvester The Times(£)

>Yesterday:ToryDiary: Angela Merkel may have a doppelgänger

News in brief

  • Labour lead at five – YouGov
  • Fewer local bank branches HSBC warns – Daily Mail
  • “One Nation Labour” is “meaningless” says Stella Creasy – Daily Telegraph
  • Ministers in Lords defeat over pensions – BBC
  • 31 MOD officials on six figure salaries – The Sun(£)
  • Diabetes “wonder drug” to be available on NHS – Daily Express
  • Labour MP Sian James to stand down – BBC

25 comments for: Newslinks for Tuesday 25th February 2014

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